Welcome To The Bitchery
Welcome To The Bitchery
This is a platform for User Generated Content. G/O Media assumes no liability for content posted by Kinja users to this platform.

Problematic (probably) blues guitar

I take private guitar lessons. I have the most adorable guitar teacher. She is kind enough to come to my house instead of me coming to her, since I can't drive. She's in her 60s, plays quite a few instruments, is in an active folk music band, used to be a music professor at a college, and is a WOC (Latina). I wanted to learn blues music rather than the five pink songs I knew, so she's been working me. We've been working on music that has variations of the 12 bar blues.

Yesterday she brought "pick A Bale of Cotton". I was like, "hey, that cool- a slavery working song."


Her: "no, this is Lead Belly- it was recorded in the late 50s, it was a working song about the Depression."

Me (laughing): "no. Lead Belly make it popular, and it was later adopted in the depression. But it is certainly a slavery working song. It was sung as a round in the fields, or sang at dances. Check out the lyrics."


Her: "oh crap. I should've known better. I've been teaching kids this song. It only has like 5 notes.(groan...) are you mad?"

Nope nice lady. But maybe you should check your stuff first.


I found this entertaining, but I will not find it entertaining when one of her 8 year white students songs it in a rehearsal without at least knowing where it came from. I said maybe she should include a bit of music history if she was going to teach the piece. The music is good. Teaching the music is fine(to me- it's history), but those lyrics are killer. Hey, look! We can pick impossible amounts of whatever you need! Me, my wife, my kids! Whatever you need! What motivation would someone have for singing that in slavery times? I can't possibly imagine.


It was also used for dancing- so it saddens me that even while enjoying themselves, the song focused on work, though perhaps in a satirical way. Bottom line though- the origin of the song was buried.

If you can't teach the lesson on why, then maybe pick a less controversial piece.


GT- am I wrong? She's been very kind, and I was nice. I did not criticize per say, just pointed out a few things.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter